Vallejo invites federal intervention to help improve relations following police misconduct cases

Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff has formally invited the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service to help the city "improve community and police relations."

"Having strength is knowing when to ask for help, and that time is now," Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said in a statement. "I welcome the wisdom and insights of the DOJ Community Relations Service to improve our police department and assist with elevating the level of community engagement with 
our residents."

The call for federal intervention comes after the Feb. 9 shooting of 20-year-old Willie McCoy, killed by police after falling asleep in his car outside a Taco Bell restaurant. McCoy was found with a gun on his lap. While police said he reached for a gun prompting officers to open fire, loved ones of McCoy and community activists criticized the police department for its handling of the situation. McCoy's death was the 16th involving Vallejo police officers since 2011.

The department has had other recent problems as well. In January, another Vallejo man said an officer assaulted him for simply filming a traffic stop from his own front porch. And in February, 2 Investigates was the first to report that the same officer was seen last summer pulling out a gun while he was off duty and getting into a confrontation with a father heading to his son's birthday party. That officer was placed on leave, 2 Investigates learned. 

"Our elected leaders and the City staff are committed to improvements on all fronts in the City of Vallejo," stated City Manager Nyhoff, "and that includes a cooperative and constructive relationship with the very community that we serve."

The DOJ's Community Relations Service is the department's "peacemaker" for community conflicts. It is not an investigative agency nor does it prosecute. 

Federal agents will come to Vallejo and work with police, community members and city administrators to help identify racial and social issues and resolve them. According to the DOJ's website, this is done through mediation, training and conflict resolution programs. All of these services are free and confidential. 

Vallejo's specific plan-of-action is still being coordinated and it's not clear if it will be made public. 

This isn't the first time Vallejo has reached out for federal help in this way. The city in 2013 called in federal Community Relations Service mediators after a man with a pellet gun in his car was shot and killed by police, stoking tensions between police and the community.

Improving relations between police and the community -- a city of 118,000 people with significant white, black, Hispanic and Asian populations -- is a City Council initiative, and will be developed and implemented "over time," with regular updates and reports, city officials said.

KTVU's Candice Nguyen contributed to this report.